Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Former trustees support incumbents in CWI elections

The College of Western Idaho (CWI) was created by the voters of Ada and Canyon Counties in 2007. We are two of the five founding trustees of that college and served for a combined total of over 20 years. The challenges were enormous and the results satisfying.  
After an initial 1,200 student enrollment, CWI now serves approximately 30,000 students who can choose among the 78 courses and 132 programs reflected in the current catalog. Students desiring four-year college degrees can complete their first two years at CWI. Those seeking training for meaningful jobs in the workforce have many choices including nursing, dental assistant, mechanics, welding, computer technology, criminal justice, and others. 
Affordability is a cornerstone of any community college. In keeping with that requirement, current CWI tuition/fees is $139 per credit hour, which on average is less than half of Idaho’s public four-year institutions. 
CWI faces an election in which four of the five seats on the Board of Trustees will be on the November ballot (three incumbents and one open seat.) As former trustees of the college, with an awareness of its history and plans for the future, we believe the three incumbents – Molly Lenty, Annie Hightower and Jim Reames – will continue leading CWI in an appropriate direction. In the open seat, we believe Nicole Bradshaw will best serve the college. We support these candidates. 
Our endorsements are based in part on statements of some candidates. Disturbing themes arise. Most troubling is a commitment among some to reduce property taxes for CWI. As founding Trustees, we know that the tax levy was set far below what was allowed by Idaho law to honor a promise to voters prior to the 2007 election. In 2020, the rate was $10.63 per $100,000 of taxable property value, about 20% of the total budget. By comparison, consider the College of Southern Idaho, where the 2020 levy was $99.15 per $100,000 of value.
The need to cut spending is also claimed by some. During our tenure on the Board, budgetary concerns were always on the table, and it remained a priority to live within our means. While it does take money to serve 30,000 students, we are confident that financial needs and constraints have been monitored by the Trustees down to the present day. 
Finally, two non-incumbent candidates are concerned about an “agenda based curricular.” Presumably this is aimed at various social issues currently in the news. In any event, we believe that the College’s focus is clear – offer the first two years of academic courses and continue serving students and the community through technical education degrees. 
In 2016 CWI received accreditation through the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities. This is extremely important and impacts areas such as finances and student enrollment. It would be tragic if this accreditation was jeopardized through irresponsible decisions made by the Board of Trustees. We urge voters to carefully consider each candidate’s positions and credentials. CWI has performed extremely well. Let’s not change that.

Guy Hurlbutt and Mark Dunham

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